The Lakers are undefeated. Don’t worry, that is not a typo. After a nice second half run, the Lakers were able to defeat the Sacramento Kings despite trailing most of the game. Los Angeles will look to extend their winning streak as they host the Denver Nuggets at 7:30PM PST on NBA TV and Spectrum SportsNet.
One of the most intriguing questions going into this game is who will be in the starting lineup. Luke Walton surprised a lot of people by starting Lou Williams over Jordan Clarkson. Walton expressed that this change will not be permanent, but more so of an experiment in preparation for the regular season. It will be interesting to see if Williams start over Clarkson again. Clarkson and Williams performed well last game, but the offense looked more fluid with the former on the court.
The bench rotation also deserves special attention. Brandon Ingram led the Lakers in minutes last game (26:41) despite coming off the bench. Unsurprisingly, Ingram struggled on offense but played extremely well on defense. If Ingram floats anywhere between 25-27 minutes this game, then that should be a good predictor for how much he will play during the regular season. Luol Deng has been ruled doubtful for tonight’s game, so we could be seeing Ingram in the starting lineup.
The Lakers have interesting battles at the power forward and the backup point guard position. Julius Randle had a subpar game, as he got in early foul trouble, while Larry Nance, Jr.’s strong Summer League showing continued through the first preseason contest. Keep in mind the Lakers have only played one game in the preseason, so Nance Jr.’s performance shouldn’t undermine Randle’s starting role. They have three more weeks to battle it out.
There is no question that D’Angelo Russell will be the starting point guard, but the backup point guard role is a bit equivocal. Marcelo Huertas and Jose Calderon divided playing time in the first game. Huertas came off the bench in the first half, while Calderon played in the second half. Huertas and Calderon provide decent playmaking on the court, but the latter offers better shooting and more experience. It will be interesting to see if Luke continues to play them the same way or mix it up.
Similar to the Lakers, the Denver Nuggets also have young and talented players. The Nuggets will be led by Emanuel Mudiay and Nikola Jokic. Mudiay averaged 13 points and five assists last season. Jokic averaged 10 points and seven rebounds in his rookie season. D’Angelo Russell struggled last game, so it would be a positive sign if he can have a solid game against an explosive player in Mudiay.
We will also get to see Nugget’s lottery pick, Jamal Murray. Murray was selected 7th overall by the Nuggets last summer. Murray had an impressive summer league and he provides a decent threat from deep. It is also noted that he and Ingram are close buddies off the court.
The Lakers are still learning and getting adjusted to the new basketball system under Luke Walton. They looked a bit sloppy in the first contest, but hopefully, they can show improvements against the Nuggets.